I always loved the scene in The Jerk where Steve Martin goes crazy over the arrival of the new phonebook. I love the whole movie -- for my money, it's easily Carl Reiner's best directing effort -- but that scene in particular always sticks out. And every year, I usually have a similar moment of excitement due to a certain publication arriving in the mail.
On Tuesday, TV Guide's Fall Preview delivered. Coincidentally, and I can't remember this happening before, Entertainment Weekly's Fall Preview issue arrived the same day. Usually, I'll devour both of those magazines as soon as they come, and even though TV Guide has become possibly one of the worst magazines, even as they keep making "improvements" to it, I still love their thorough coverage of the new and returning shows.
But this year, the damn Fall season is sneaking up on me, and between work and other commitments, I haven't found the time to dedicate myself to the important task of absorbing everything that's about to be thrown at us. As it is, on my DiVo I have recorded the first Father of the Pride, the first Hawaii, and last night's premiere of The Apprentice which I haven't had a chance to watch forcing me to be extra careful when traveling through the blogosphere today since I'm sure there will be plenty of chatter.
I will get through those issues this weekend, but I did take the time to catch the premiere of Joey, and to say I was disappointed would imply that I was expecting something good. However, I never imagined that the people behind this spin-off would so utterly lack any imagination in creating a first episode. What aired tonight was stock sit-com fodder, with embarrassing amounts of laugh-track because 9 out of 10 jokes (which were thrown out in fast and furious fashion) would land with a resounding THUNK!
I'll withhold final judgment on Joey for at least two more episodes. The coming attractions actually looked like a potentially cute and clever show, doing for Joey something not so different from what was done for Frasier when his character left Boston for Seattle. The idea of Joey acting as mentor, especially in dealing with women, for his brainy but slightly uncool 20 year old nephew has potential, but that was barely hinted at tonight. Granted, this was a pilot episode, having to establish the new characters and the environment and how everyone will interact, but maybe they might have made it funny. Drea de Matteo is fine as Joey's sister, but she's also just a stereotype write now, and not a funny one. The normally hysterical Jennifer Coolidge is utterly wasted as Joey's new agent with an absolutely awful scene that simply begged for laughs but didn't deserve any.
There's plenty to criticize about this show, especially it's extremely unrealistic portrayal of the development of a television show. Within the period of a week, Joey somehow gets the lead in a cop show, shoots the pilot, has the show cancelled and discovers the show he passed on just weeks ago has become a big hit. But Joey obviously isn't going for realism; I know that. Still, the degree of absurdity in the basic plot of this first episode contributes to the lack of any comedy in this sit-com.
And just so you know, I'm a fan of Joey Tribiani. I know people are sick of his character, but during the last year or two of Friends when I found myself watching the show more out of habit than anything else, Joey somehow still managed to make me laugh at once an episode. And to be fair, there were at least two specific Joey-moments in this episode that caused at least a chuckle in me. But the rest of it? Zzzzzzzz.
My bad feeling about Joey started not because of the buzz since the up-fronts but due to the crappy marketing campaign. There's a poster for the show on a phone booth near my apartment. The tagline says, "New City, Still Lost." Do you know how many people work in marketing for NBC? Do you have any idea how many phrases they probably ran through before settling on that one? The damn thing doesn't make any sense. Yeah, I understand what they're going for, but it's not funny because it makes no damn sense. You could be the smartest person in the world; you move to a new city, chances are you'll be lost. If Joey wasn't moving anywhere and it said, "Same City, Still Lost," that would make sense. That would be slightly clever. But what's funny about a loveable but dumb guy being lost in a place he doesn't know? Yes, the lost refers to his intelligence not being geographically challenged, but if it doesn't allude to both, then the pun doesn't work.
Well, that's a perfect mini-example of what's wrong with the entire show based on this one episode. A lot of Joey moments, some Joey moments coming from his sister, but very little to balance them so far, and none of it funny.
Maybe the future episodes are dramatically better. NBC certainly must hope so. If Joey stays the same or gets worse while paired with the why-the-hell-is-it-still-popular Will & Grace in the eight o'clock hour, I don't care how popular The Apprentice is, Thursday on NBC definitely will no longer be must-see.